I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Serious doubts

Update: Thanks, Fake Steve Jobs! I’ve always wanted to be yelled at and berated by the real Steve Jobs, but this is probably as close as I’m going to get. On with the original post:

I’ve never doubted the viability of running a serious business of writing iPhone apps before. For the first time, now, I am.

App Review is problematic when the delays are longer than a few days. Since its inception, having submitted applications about 12 times, I’ve never seen a delay shorter than 6 days, with 7-8 being the most common duration. And now that rejections for very minor issues are common, nearly every app update gets rejected at least once and needs to wait in the queue again.

Almost no app updates were approved during the entire month of June with no explanation.

Apple refused to field a single question about the App Store at WWDC.

The new age-rating system is forcing nearly all internet-content-based apps to forego promo codes and tell buyers that they contain frequent nudity, intense profanity, and drug use.

iTunes Connect, the interface through which developers submit and manage apps, is extremely buggy and frequently mishandles important operations. On multiple occasions, it has posted screenshots and description text from an in-review update submission to the live app page, revealing upcoming features to competitors, blowing press exclusives, and causing my customers to email me angrily asking where the features are and accusing me of bait-and-switch.

Past iTunes Connect form-validation bugs have prevented me from updating my app’s information for days, even to reflect new features or pricing.

A current iTunes Connect form-validation bug (rdar://7052003) has prevented me from editing the rating for Instapaper Pro 2.1 to comply with the new “17+” requirement, and they won’t approve the update until I do. The bug has been open for 4 days so far with no resolution. I’m completely stuck, inexplicably, until they get around to fixing it.

Trying to communicate with Apple is like talking to a brick wall. The ADC phone reps can’t do anything, emails are rarely answered, and nearly every response that actually gets through just tells you to keep filing duplicate bug reports (that rarely get answered) until the problem goes away, which may never happen.

Sure, some issues get fixed. But they’re introducing problems more quickly than they’re fixing them.

I don’t think any of this is malicious (except the App Store question dodging at WWDC). I think it comes down to a simple flaw:

Apple thinks this is good enough.

And that’s the scariest part of all.

Apple thinks reviews can take 8-30 days and web-capable apps need nudity warnings and the management interface can be buggy and they don’t need us to be able to reach them and nobody really needs to take any of this very seriously.

Because it’s working for them. They’re making a killing taking their 30% commission on the 1.5 billion copies of $0.99 top-25 games that they’ve sold. Who cares if the App Store discourages good developers from putting serious effort into it? Apple doesn’t need to care. And it appears, for the higher-ups making the big decisions and resource allocations, that they don’t.

I don’t know if it’s possible to get past that.

Update, July 20th

I’ve written a big update and clarification to this.